Conversion Disorders

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A conversion disorder is a condition in which patients display neurological symptoms without any evidence of a neurological cause. Suffers of conversion disorders can be subject to "numbness, blindness, paralysis or fits" (Source). It was colloquially referred to as "hysteria." It had been studied by psychiatrists such as Sigmund Freud, Jean-Martin Charcot, and Pierre Janet. Freud's theory was that supressed anxiety symptoms manifested, or "converted", themselves into physical ailments.


Symptoms for a conversion disorder are far and in between, since they are the physical manifestations of psychological stress. However, the symptoms for a conversion disorder have been narrowed down to physical impairments of movement and sensory perception, such as: "the ability to walk, swallow, see or hear" (Source). Symptoms can range from a wide spectrum of severity, from mild to serious, and will sometimes last from a few days to a few months.
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"Conversion disorder symptoms may occur because of a psychological conflict" (Source). These psychological conflicts cause great stress within the patient, in which they begin to show symptoms of a neurological nature that cannot be explained by a neurological problem. Symptoms will usually begin to manifest after the stressful experience, and people who are already suffering from a personality, dissociative, or medical illness or disorder are more at risk for a conversion disorder. The physical symptoms are theorized as the mind's attempt to resolve the mental conflict from the inside, so physical symptoms are more likely to correspond to the psychological conflict that the patient is having.


There are different types of treatment for conversion disorders, all of which mostly involve intensive psychotherapy. Direct treatment of the stress is the first step to overcoming a conversion disorder; but, other methods such as "physical therapy, hypnosis, and Transcranial magnetic stimulation" (Source) are viable treatment options. Sometimes the symptoms will leave the patient after a period of time; but, it is important for the doctor to not treat the patient as malingering. Their symptoms are very real and must be treated through therapy.


Tamara is a 14 year old girl who was diagnosed with conversion disorder. The doctors think she first had conversion disorder when she went blind a month when she was 6 years old. Then in 2008 she was in a car accident but she came out of it fine. Three months later however, she started feeling numbness in her left foot. Her mom took her to the and the doctor said to rest her foot. But two weeks later the numbness spread all the way to her right foot. She could hardly walk anymore because of the intese pain in both her feet. This caused her to go into depression, which she hid from her friends and family. One day at school a bully threatened her and she collapsed,that was the last time she ever walked. (Source)

Sources used:

Mayo Clinic
Medicine Plus
Psych Central
Pub Med Health

Recommended Best Source:

Wikipedia and EMedicine